Want a Blu-Ray Experience on Windows 7?

One of the most common questions I get lately has to do with playback of Blu-Ray movies on Windows 7.  This article will explain everything you need to make your PC a High-Def movie monster.

First off it may be most obvious, but believe it or not I still get questions from people saying that their Blu-Ray movie won’t play from their DVD disc drive.  Being in the biz I just want to smash some heads together because of the obvious oversight.  However being the nice guy I am I politely explain how Blu-Ray is a totally different format and a Blu-Ray drive is necessary for this type of movie playback.  I forget sometimes that not everyone is a geek. 🙂

So to give a quick overview of what you will need for Blu-Ray plaback on your Windows 7 box:

  •  a Blu-Ray Burner or a BD-ROM drive (reader only)
  • Blu Ray Software for Blu Ray playback
  • a Blu Ray codec (usually MPEG-4 AVC or VC-1) these are mainly found in Blu Ray player software
  • a Video card that is HDCP compliant
  • a HD monitor or compatible HDTV

Types of Blu Ray Burners

The first step to Blu Ray dominance on your PC starts with a Blu-Ray drive.  With Blu-Ray slowly growing in popularity and becoming the format of choice for disc based movies, it is only natural for Blu-Ray hardware prices to come down. Today you can find BD burners for around $100 and BD-Rom drives for around $50.  Just hit up your local computer store or do a search online for the best deals.  Just make sure you get one!  As with DVD burners, one of the more common tasks most will want to use a Blu Ray burner for will be for copying Blu-Ray movies. There is a compare list over at Reviewster if you want to compare Blu Ray copying software.

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Blu-Ray Playback Software for Windows that Include the Codecs Necessary

Now onto the fun part of choosing a playback software for your BD content.  A few options from the typical vendors were the first to support Blu-Ray and noteably these are probably the best options to choose from.  You can compare PowerDVD and WinDVD here which both include the codecs necessary for proper playback and both offer a BD Advisor widget that will test your current PC configuration to let you know if your system is optimized for Blu-Ray.  I like PowerDVD because it also supports AVCHD so I can watch my HD camcorder footage from that as well.

Other Crucial Hardware for  Blu-ray playback on Win 7
In addition to the BD drive, your Windows 7 PC should have at lease a dual core processor with 2GB of memory for optimal playback experience. You should also have a ‘better’ video card like the NVIDIA GeForce 9600GT or above, the AMD ATI Radeon HD2400 or above, or an Intel 956G just to name a few.  Be sure to use the BD advisor widget from Cyberlink to verify your video card is supported before investing in the software. Also you need a monitor with HDCP support for the best viewing experience.

Choosing a HDCP Compliant Monitor

Selecting the right monitor is probably the trickiest part of this process unless you have a monitor that already supports HDCP.  But how do you know if it supports HDCP you ask?  The majority of HDMI monitors will support HDCP, you might want to check your makers website for the full feature list on your particular monitor, but it’s a safe bet that you are good to go for Blu Ray.  If you have a DVI or VGA connection on your monitor you may or may not be able to experience Blu-Ray in all it’s glory.  When I first started with Blu-Ray my monitor was VGA and playback resulted in a black screen with sound only.  However once I updated my video card and monitor I was good to go.

To sum it all up, to get the best Blu-Ray experience on your Windows PC you need to make sure you have all the necessary tool in place and all the hardware compliant for this new format.  The majority of PC being made in mid 2011 will support this format out of the box but just make sure before deciding on a new PC if Blu-Ray is something you desire in your home office.